Here’s a figure the Nationwide Tour was more than happy to tout in its season-ending wrap-up: Five of the this year’s 25 graduates were between the ages of 22 and 24. More than half of the grads (13) were 27 or younger, and 15 were in their 20s.
The Nationwide Tour loves to promote its up-and-coming graduates. It’s no coincidence the release failed to mention the number of players in their 30s and 40s who graduated this year.
The younger graduates are consistent with the tour’s original “developmental” mission. Last year’s Nationwide class added fuel to the fire of critics who say the tour gives too many middling veterans an opportunity to prolong undistinguished careers.
Last year’s class had an average age of nearly 34, and an equal number of players in their 40s as 20s (five). There’s nothing to prevent us from seeing a similar class next year.
This year’s youth movement is a credit to the young players themselves. It’s not proof of a long-hoped-for philosophical shift that makes the tour more accessible to young pros. Only slight changes were made to the tour’s eligibility rankings before this season.
Some other stats from this past Nationwide Tour season:
• Jamie Lovemark, 22, became the youngest player to win the Nationwide Tour money list. Stewart Cink held the previous record of 23 years old.
• Fourteen of the 25 grads will be PGA Tour rookies in 2011, including seven of the top 10 players on the money list.
• Two players finished inside the top 10 on the Nationwide Tour money list despite not winning an event. Daniel Summerhays finished fifth, and Tag Ridings was 10th.
• Andrew Svoboda was the only player to compete in all 29 events in 2010. The effort didn’t result in a PGA Tour card. He finished 46th on the money list. Twelve players played in 28 events.
• Kevin Chappell set the tour’s record for holes per eagle (58.69). The previous record was held by Todd Rose (61.4). Both players have Fresno ties. Chappell is from the central California town. Rose played at Fresno State.
Chappell also set the record for low consecutive rounds, after his 61-63 start at the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic.
• Here are your statistical leaders from this year’s Nationwide Tour (graduates in bold):
Scoring Average: Chris Kirk, 69.05
Driving Distance: Kyle Stanley, 317.1 yards
Driving Accuracy: Stephen Leaney, 74.8%
Total Driving: Kevin Chappell, 68
Greens In Regulation: Scott Dunlap, 75.0 %
All-Around Ranking: Chris Kirk, 198
Putting Average: Steven Bowditch, 1.715 putts per GIR
Birdie Average: Steven Bowditch, 4.54 per round
Sand Save Percentage: Jamie Lovemark, 67.2%